November 9, 2013 - 11:00 AM
By Tim Graham
Over the decades, Bill Parcells has compiled a collection of
inspirational reading materials.
"Stuff that I like," the Hall of Fame coach says
over the phone while sifting through it.
Parcells has kept General MacArthur's "Creed for
Youth," an Abraham Lincoln speech, Bear Bryant's principles, Warren
Buffett quotes, "Casey at the Bat" and "The Ballad of Yukon
He doesn't remember where he obtained perhaps his most
treasured clip. It's from a book called "The Coaches." He doesn't know
the author, although a deep online search returns the name Bill Libby. It was published in 1972.
"It's something I've had with me for 40 years,"
Parcells says. "I don't know how I got it. I just came upon this, and I
have it laminated."
Parcells calls the essay he's about to read to me "the
truth" about what it means to be a coach, a grueling profession that's not
"This really is it," Parcells says. "I have
looked at it hundreds of times over the years. It's just something that kind of
hit me. You live alone. It's the loneliest."
Parcells notes that he has tried to warn all of the
assistants who've worked for him and struck out on their own as head coaches --
Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, Sean Payton among them -- the job isn't so
I've called to Parcells to speak about an exhausting profession
that can wreck minds and bodies. An in-depth feature with comments from Buffalo
Bills coach Doug Marrone, former coach Marty Schottenheimer, sports psychologist
Cal Botterill and Parcells will run in Sunday's paper.
Denver Broncos coach John Fox had an aortic valve
replacement this week. Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak collapsed with a
mini-stroke at halftime Sunday night.
Parcells had bypass surgery in 1992, when he was 50 and in
between coaching the New York Giants and New England Patriots. Mike Ditka
suffered a massive heart attack at 49 while coaching the Chicago Bears in 1988.
Dan Reeves had in-season heart procedures at 46 and 54 years old, the latter a
The pressures, guilt, fatigue and burnout of coaching contribute
to some tortured souls.
"Now, the rewards are pretty great if you're successful,"
Parcells says of being a coach. "But success really is never final in this
business. Failure can be."
And now Parcells wants to share the essay because he thinks
it can help him explain the life of a head coach better than he can.
"This is some pretty powerful stuff in my
opinion," Parcells says.
He begins (click on the audio link below to hear it in
Parcells' own words) ...
"He is called coach. It is a difficult job, and there
is no clear way to succeed at it. One cannot copy another who was a winner for
there seems to be some subtle, secret chemistry of personality that enables a
person to lead successfully, and no one really knows what it is.
"Those who have succeeded and those who have failed
represent all kinds -- young and old, inexperienced and experienced, hard and
soft, tough and gentle, good-natured and foul-tempered, proud and profane,
articulate and inarticulate, even dedicated and casual. Most are dedicated,
some more than others. Some are smarter than others. But intelligence is not
enough. All want to win, but some want to win more than others. And just wanting
to win is not enough in any event. Even winning is often not enough. Losers
almost always get fired, but winners get fired, too.
"He's out in the open,
being judged publicly almost every day or night for six to seven or eight
months a year by those who may or may not be qualified to judge him. And every
victory and every defeat is recorded constantly in print or on the air and
periodically totaled up.
"The coach has no place to hide. He cannot just let the
job go for a little while or do a bad job and assume no one will notice, as most
of us can. He cannot satisfy everyone. Seldom can he even satisfy very many.
Rarely can he even satisfy himself. If he wins once, he must win the next time,
too. They plot victories, they suffer defeats, endure criticism from within
and without. They neglect their families, they travel endlessly and live alone
in a spotlight, surrounded by others.
"Theirs may be the worst profession -- unreasonably
demanding and insecure and full of unrelenting pressures. Why do they put up
with it? Why do they do it? Having seen them hired and hailed as geniuses in
gaudy, party-like press conferences, and then having seen them fired with pat
phrases such as 'fool' or 'incompetent,' I've wondered about them. Having seen
them exalted in victory and depressed by defeat, I have sympathized with them.
Having seen some broken by the jobs and others die from it, one is moved to admire
them and hope that someday the world will learn to understand them."